Here I was in sunny Spain just having a drink in a local bar as you do. Striking up a conversation with some people on the next table I ended up talking about life in Spain with Ken and his wife Sheila. She tells me that as a teenager, Ken fought in the war and that they bought a small apartment a few years ago as, at nearly 90 years old, he suffers from lung disease now and can’t cope with our winters, his health only gets worse if he tries.
Out of the blue he tells me that he had written to Boris Johnson following BJ’s recent ‘conversion’ to Brexit. Expecting a different exchange of political views and perspectives from mine, I was a bit taken aback!!! But Ken quickly tells me that he is worried now the referendum date is confirmed and the argument has started. He says that speculation is rife amongst the expats about the consequences of exit and what it might mean for the hundreds of thousands living in another EU country, even for only 6 months a year.
Ken said that even though he is sometimes muddled, he wanted Boris to understand the implications for people like himself, an EU migrant, of leaving the EU so he composed, and in fact had just posted, a letter to him. He is worried on a number of fronts and believes Boris hasn’t a clue so his letter attempts to put Boris straight. First, Ken needs the warm winter weather to avoid his health being compromised. Second he is dependant on reciprocal health care in Spain. Third, he and his wife rely on his modest pension to live on and is very keen to make it go as far as possible. Fourth, paying for health care in Spain would be catastrophic. And finally, how could he make ends meet if he had to move back to UK permanently and cope with winter heating bills? (Quite apart from the impact on his health.)
Ken felt that people should know what the impact of Brexit would be for the 800,000 expats living in Spain if Brexit happened. His analysis is that a vote to leave could not only destabilise the UK economy but the movement of peoples back to UK would put huge pressures on current infrastructures – schools, housing, hospitals, GPs. EU membership enables him to live and be taxed equally alongside Spanish people while EU healthcare provides a safety net for his health situation. if this wasn’t available then he would have to return to the UK; and there are many in his position.
The knock on effect on the housing market in Spain and all those businesses set up to support the expats would be severely affected he says. For Ken and hundreds of thousands like him he doesn’t feel the out campaign has any idea of the seismic shock which would engulf them nor the consequences for the UK. Finally, Ken says he would urge every one of the UK’ s two million EU expats to vote ‘Remain’ as their numbers could make a huge difference to the outcome of the referendum. And as he himself said as he left the bar that night, his life might depend on it.
Sylvia Howells, Banbury & Bicester Labour Party